In less than a decade, the United States has witnessed two nation-changing events.

The first, without question, was Sept. 11, 2001. The coordinated terrorist attacks on our homeland, the collapse of the twin towers, the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans exposed a vulnerability and anger that our nation, and we as citizens, had not felt since Pearl Harbor.

The second event, one we continue to live through, is the greatest financial crisis we have witnessed since the Great Depression. Although each event is profoundly and obviously different, and I would never place an attack on our homeland or the loss of thousands of American lives on a par with loss of income, jobs or homes, I do believe that the current financial crisis has exposed a nationwide vulnerability and anger that we have not seen since Sept. 11.

With Sept. 11, we understandably wondered, How could this happen? or Could it happen again?

The growing desire for answers and explanations led elected leaders and the public to call for an independent and bipartisan commission. While its findings may have been imperfect for some, it did provide a much-needed analysis and accounting that was important not only for historical or policy purposes, but — I believe — to help our nation deal with the psychological effects of that terrible day.

With respect to the financial crisis of 2008, a crisis whose size and scope seemed to come out of nowhere, the time has now come, I believe, for an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate how and why this happened. A commission that would offer real and substantive recommendations, regulatory and otherwise, so that the incoming Obama administration and Congress can best discern where we go from here.

During the presidential election, it was John McCainJohn Sidney McCainArizona Democratic Party will hold vote to censure Sinema The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Biden's debate performance renews questions of health MORE who first mentioned the idea of an independent bipartisan commission, much like the 9/11 Commission, to study the financial crisis. In the midst of a heated election, calling for a commission seemed an impotent response; faced with any crisis, the public wants real action, not study. Others — and I would have been one of them — argued that America needs another commission about as much as it needs another reality TV show, but the complexity of this financial crisis demands (for lack of a better word) study.

More importantly, as the weeks have gone by since the crisis first erupted, the American people still have questions, and are demanding answers. In fact, if anyone spent time over the holidays talking to any average American about how they think we got into this mess, what they would have heard — if my experience is anything — is angry puzzlement filled with many expletives and the use of the word “greed” — a lot. (Word of advice: Do not try this with family or friends who have lost a job or seen their home values decline, let alone their 401(k) decimated, because it could be a really, really, long night.) But what you will not hear is a real understanding of what happened, because the truth is, aside from an array of media reports, it has not been provided.

The truth is the American people deserve better.

The truth is the American people deserve answers.

The truth is if these questions continue to go unanswered, it will further erode the trust the American people have toward our whole financial system, let alone toward our economy.

More importantly, the truth is that the American people have a right to know how the greatest financial engine the world has ever seen could be weakened so severely and seemingly so quickly.

Let me put it another way. Without some real explanation of how this crisis happened, of how trillions of dollars have been lost, of how our regulatory system and agencies seemed to fail, of how and why some of the smartest economic and business minds in our nation did not see this coming, the anger of the American people will grow and grow and grow.

And, if someone thinks uncertainty or fear is bad for an ailing economy, just think for a second about what anger will do.

Now, some may argue — isn’t that what our government is supposed to do? Well, as we saw with Sept. 11, a crisis this serious, especially one that is ongoing, forces our government and our elected leaders to perform policy triage. Which basically means come up with the best you got, stop the bleeding, and hope the patient (in this case a multitrillion-dollar economy) stabilizes. Bottom line, the Obama administration has to be focused on managing this crisis, and that kind of policy triage does not leave a lot of time for historical analysis.

So while McCain’s timing may have been off, now may be the best time to form an independent and bipartisan commission to investigate this financial calamity. A commission that would give the American people, not to mention Congress and the Obama administration, a full accounting of why this happened and where we go from here.

Ironically, none of us may like what we read, and we may even question its findings and recommendations, but at least we’ll have some answers. And, before we go even further down the proverbial rabbit hole of this financial crisis, it would nice to hear how we got into this mess and how — just maybe — we can prevent it from ever happening again.

Because the truth is, two epochal events are more than enough in one lifetime.